Tag Archives: gardening

From the Garden to the Freezer: Making it Last

Saturday was a beautiful day; and not just because the weather cooperated and didn’t rain out my day. No, it was good because I spent it doing something I haven’t done in such a long time. 

I baked!

I used to enjoy baking, and even cooking a lot more. I haven’t had the time, or rather, I haven’t taken the time to do anything more than preparing a meal. But today, I decided to not allow the fresh zucchini and yellow squash given to me from a friend’s garden, go to waste.

The zucchini from Lisa’s garden was so large that I used less than half of it to make a full batch of the bread. I decided to get a little creative as well, using oat flour instead of white flour, and coconut sugar instead of white sugar. The texture was a little different, but they tasted just as good as any others I’ve made in the past. 

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Thinking ahead, I decided to bake them as small loaves so that I could freeze some for later. And with half the zucchini still leftover, I think I’ll make some time in my Sunday afternoon to make even more. They make the perfect quick breakfast; paired with coffee or a glass of milk and some fruit!

My friend blessed me with some yellow squash as well. And to be honest, I’ve been staring at them with guilt looking at them laying on the counter for over a week. I’d already prepared some for dinner on the stovetop, In my typical sautéed with onions and butter. And while that was nice, I just didn’t feel compelled to try to eat the rest of the squash in that fashion. But I also knew that the clock was ticking on their freshness. And I didn’t want to waste a gift of food, especially garden fresh food. So onward to a squash casserole I went.

From one large squash I was able to make two small casseroles. Of course, one headed straight for the freezer. The other one complimented the leftovers I had for dinner, with plenty still to enjoy later in the weekend. 

In between the chopping, preparing, and baking, I sat and vegged out on a marathon of another new, mindless reality show that I came across, stopping occasionally to play a word game on my phone; something I added recently to help sharpen my mind and help keep me focused.

Late afternoon found me outside cleaning out a car I’m preparing to sell. I made a promise to myself that any money I get from the sale will go straight into my savings account, after first paying off my dental bill.

By the end of the day, I at first thought I hadn’t really accomplished anything major, including the dishes still in the sink, the result of my sudden burst of domesticated kitchen goddess, I actually felt really good this evening. I’d been able to take vegetables from the garden and make some food for now, and some for the freezer to enjoy later. And since most of the items I needed for both dishes were already in the house, or things I needed for the house anyway, the cost was minimum.

My hope, dream, and future plan is to eventually buy a house with a reasonable amount of land where I can walk to the backyard, out into my own garden, and save money not having to go to the grocery store for vegetables, herbs; maybe even fruit from trees, while hopefully being able to bless others as I have been so fortunate to be blessed by friends over the years.

How fun would that be?!

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My Trip to the Farmer’s Market

I love going to the community farmer’s market. I don’t go as often as I should, because I keep forgetting. Out of sight out of mind, I guess. But whenever I’m visiting my hometown in SC during the summer, I always remember to go because it’s located right across the street from an outside mall I frequently visit or drive past. That wasn’t always the case. Before I moved away, the only option was going all the way downtown to the large city-run one. Road side farmers started popping up right before I left, but it would be years later before organized community markets started to become the norm.

I suppose that was the case everywhere. When I first moved to Nashville, the only Farmer’s Market was the large one, again, in the downtown area. I lived 15 miles away, and even though I worked downtown, the traffic and parking wasn’t worth trying to get there during lunchtime. I’ve actually been a little surprised by how slow the community markets have come up around here. But since moving to a town just to the south of Nashville, I found one that sets up on the downtown square, only six miles from where I now live. It’s worth the short drive, past all the grocery stores, to pick up fresh vegetables; mostly grown locally. And many of the items I pick up cost less than what’s in the store. I mean, have you noticed there’s almost never a store coupon for fruits and fresh vegetables?! 

I’ve gotten to where I enjoy walking around the farmer’s market; even with the summer heat. It’s kinda nice looking at all of the small farm and family booths and checking out what their farms have yielded. I think that even while we’re watching our money, trying to stick to a budget, and stretch our paychecks each month, we cannot forsake our health in the process. One of the things we don’t think about, and that is not often taught or talked about, is the fact that not eating healthy will often cost you more in the long run. Someone once said to me, you can pay more now to eat right and do the things needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle, or you can pay more later, with the cost of doctors’ visits and medications from diseases we develop, mostly attached to our unhealthy lifestyles.

I’ve decided to only use cash when I go to the market now, so that I can control how much I’m spending. The other decision I made was to not buy more than what I could prepare and eat in one week’s time. In the past, too often I’ve ended up having to throw away some of my vegetables if I couldn’t eat them fast enough before they started browning, wilting and growing mold. I always feel bad when that happens because wasted food is wasted money! I recently read that Americans waste  approximately 150,000 tons of food each day, which comes out to be about a waste of one pound a day per person. That is ridiculously sad; especially given the number of people who go to bed hungry every day in America. 

While I can’t control what other people do, I am motivated to do more of my part, and not contribute to the  “American waste” mentality. And I do think it’s a “mentality.” Here in America, we live in a society where no one likes to be told what to do; certainly not what or how much to buy. Where “rights” have overtaken common sense. I mean, why else were so many people originally against wearing seatbelts and still fight helmet laws?  

Regarding food, I still think about how so many schools were against Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution; when he set out to show how the foods being served in many American schools were high fat, high sugar, high sodium, processed foods, that were contributing to the increase in childhood obesity, and the decline in the overall health of children at much younger ages. The state governments may be saving money by the food choices they make for the schools, but parents of these kids are spending more time and money in doctor’s offices, and setting up an unhealthy lifestyle that their child will have to deal with once they become adults, and the cost gets transferred on to them.

But I digress.

So being single, I have had to learn how to figure out what’s enough and what’s too much, because there’s no one else helping you eat it. That’s why I also try to only buy those things I know I like, or in some cases, things I know I need, like these beets. I don’t like them, but I’ve figured out a way to prepare them to help me try to eat them more often, mostly because of all of the nutritional benefits they provide. 

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As you work on your monthly budget, and make out your weekly shopping lists, remember to leave room for the bigger picture. Plan today so that you’re not paying a bigger price tomorrow.

Adjusting Your Life to Your New Normal

Why the name Catching Raindrops?

The verb Adjusting means “to change (something) so that it fits, corresponds, or conforms; adapt; accommodate.” Adjustment is defined as “adaptation to a particular condition, position, or purpose.”

Interestingly, the dictionary gives an example of “adjusting,” by this sentence use: “to adjust expenses to income.”

That definition lines up so perfectly with the actions that lead to the name. As I’ve shared before, I spent about a year looking at ways to make adjustments in my lifestyle to accommodate my new life. One of those changes included figuring out ways to cut back not just on expenses outside the home, but things that impacted my money inside the home. There was nothing I could do about the fixed mortgage, because I already had a good rate, so I zoned in on adjusting the other things that were variables – my utilities, groceries, clothes, and related items.

With that, I kept my heat at 66 and my air conditioner turned to 78. For most of my friends, they thought I was crazy, and actually had their own heat and AC settings exactly the opposite of mine. But then, I was trying to save money, and to understand that being comfortable didn’t have to mean ending up with hundreds of dollars in utility charges.

I forced myself to wear the clothes that were already in my closet; not that I was a fashionista to begin with. And limited purchasing new items only for special events, and with retail coupons. I did likewise with my groceries; using reward cards, coupons, and waiting for certain sales before shopping, still trying to stay with only buying the things I needed and not what I wanted. I think sometimes it’s harder to deny yourself from those things you want, than even the things you need! But I knew I had to do it.

I started cutting my own grass again and stopped watering the lawn and floor gardens, allowing nature to take its course. If it rained, they got water. If it didn’t, I just prayed the lawn and flowers wouldn’t all die. Fortunately, that never happened. And since I’d started a patio garden with vegetables and herbs, I took advantage of any opportunity that the skies would deliver water for FREE. I caught as much water as I could by placing water buckets around the deck in my backyard. Southern summers demand a regular watering of container plants if they are to survive. So the water-filled buckets I caught when it rained served to refresh plants later to avoid the summer’s hot sun from drying them out. And it didn’t cost me anything!

It was equating that literal process I was engaged in – taking advantage of free resources today to save and use when the need occurs later – that the name Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, grew. Whether that was saving herb plants on the deck, cutting and using coupons at the store, joining loyalty programs for discounts on gas and other items; or even in the downgrade of things such as cable TV and my house alarm system — all of it was for the purpose of making adjustments in how I was living to survive these new times.

I was adjusting my life to my new normal!

There’s No Goodbye in Friendships

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I had a nice visit with a good friend the other day. She is moving away from my hometown, so this was our last time together for a while. Funny thing is that what I call my hometown, truly is the place where I feel the most at home (high school, college, friends, family, etc.), however, I haven’t lived there in over 20 years! But ever since I left, I have made it a practice to visit, typically two times a year; always making time to see my close friends each time I’m in town. And now, she won’t be there.

As we sit back relaxing on a cushioned daybed, I stare out into the backyard from her screen porch, and wonder, why haven’t we done this more often. Mango tea in one hand, and no bugs to swipe away with the other, I am enjoying watching the birds bounce around on the large crepe myrtle, which has lost most of its flowers, but whose greenery still provides a safe haven for the tiny birds to play. In the distance, I can hear what must be squirrels jumping tree to tree; or perhaps it’s the rabbits she says have made themselves at home in her yard. It’s a beautiful sunny day; but hot and humid, as I remembered a South Carolina June day is suppose to be. The ceiling fan in the porch makes it tolerable, but of course, I’m here for the conversation anyway.

Lisa is unusually calm today. I expected to find her running around trying to take care of last minute things; maybe even stressing out that everything wasn’t going to get done in time. But she was just the opposite. Since it was her husband’s new job that initiated the move, she’s had the benefit of having his company handle everything for the move. So as the two women inside continue to wrap and pack up boxes in the kitchen, and the five or six guys continue to carry furniture out onto the large moving van, she had the time to sit and simply chill out with me for an hour or so to talk.

It’s been about a year since she first got word that this day might be coming. I remember the first time she asked for general prayer, that they would know which path they should take with some opportunities coming their way. The final determination was made months later; right as school was getting underway. So that meant making other decisions based upon their son’s school as well. The delayed time for departure, I think, gave her some extra time to prepare as much emotionally for it, as she had to do physically and logistically.

I think that sometimes we forget about the emotional toil that major life changes can have on us. People often only consider the financial challenges or physical changes that might be ahead. And while we may all be impacted differently when our lifestyle is forced to go through a change, we are, nonetheless, all still impacted! Preparing for your new life mentally and emotionally is just as important as all of the logistics you might handle to prepare physically. It’s definitely not an area you should neglect as you make plans for your new normal.

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Before I left, I picked a bowl of blueberries from her backyard one last time (and threw them in a salad later that day). Jokingly, I told her I would be back next summer to meet the new owners, just so I could help myself to the blueberry bushes.

I’ve alway loved what they did with their backyard, filling the landscape with peach trees and blackberry bushes. Though the pending move made her skip planting a vegetable garden, it has in the past been just as spectacular as the vast array of carefully planted daylilies, and black-eyed Susans; mums and daisies; azaleas and multiple magnolia trees. It’s a Southern girl’s dream yard!

So of course I said yes when she offered me some of her hundreds of daylilies, and then gave me a large container herb garden filled with everything from chives to rosemary; mint and oregano. Graciously, I promised to take good care of it all.

Best news of all…she’s actually moving about 350 miles closer to where I live now!

Catching Raindrops in Water Barrels

I love hearing from people who have made changes in their lives because of something I’ve shared here, and on our Facebook page, or challenges I’ve made to encourage others on ways to take control over their own financial future. It’s not always possibly for someone to take on a second job; or even in some cases, working outside the home at all. But there are lots of ways we can all make changes to help save and stretch the use of the money that IS coming in to the home. So I was really excited to hear from a friend of mine who had not only done just that…but utilized one avenue quite literally, by catching raindrops in her water (buckets) barrels!

Meet Erica Manly, a stay at home mom, who previously worked full-time outside the home. Much has changed in Erica’s life over the past five years, including marriage, quitting her day job, having a baby, and moving three hours away from her family for her husband’s job. Erica’s life changed…so Erica had to learn how to adjust her lifestyle to her new normal. Let me let her tell you more about that.

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My name is Erica and I’m a wife and stay at home mom to the cutest and busiest little three year old you’ve ever seen. In order to make it possible to stay with her full-time and to save for our future (and hers), I am always looking for ways for our family to save wherever we can. We became even more serious about saving last year after reviewing exactly how much money was going out every month. I started serious couponing first, because most of our budget was going to the grocery store. I wouldn’t call what I do “extreme couponing”, but we are definitely saving about $400 per month in comparison to two years ago between the grocery and other big box store spending. And as a bonus, our cupboards and closets are full of food and toiletries!

I also took up gardening last year with one raised bed garden of vegetables. Whenever I decide to start a project like this, I’m sure my husband cringes as this means work for him. He built a nice raised bed for me and filled it with a truck load of dirt. Our friend had started extra tomato plants and had other extra seeds, so we actually spent absolutely nothing on our plants!

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As a new gardener, I noticed how much more everything grew when it rained in comparison to my usual watering from the hose. Our friend calls it “magic water”.

Partly inspired by our Catching Raindrops friend, Gloria, I told my husband that I needed a rain barrel. The way I remember it, he rolled his eyes and sighed. A couple days later, my man was researching rain barrels and told me he found some 55 gallon drums for sale nearby and had found a way to tie them into our downspout under the back porch. Within a week, the project was complete – three 55 gallon drums filled with water after one good rain.

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I can’t break down exactly how much money it is saving us, but I was watering our new landscaping on the front of the house and/or the veggie garden almost everyday. Since installing the rain collection system, I have only pulled the garden hose back out a few times. I am looking forward to expanding my garden this spring to two raised beds of vegetables and using my good and bad experiences from last year to improve. My husband will also add another rain barrel or two to be sure we never run out of rain water.

While my ways may be extreme to some, and my reasons to save money may be different from yours, there are almost always ways to spend less and save more for a rainy (or even not rainy) day!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go follow my child around while turning off lights and try to explain (again) that just because you can flip all the light switches now doesn’t mean you need to turn all the lights on!

Why Patience is Worth the Wait

I have a friend who loves to garden.  Most of what she grows is intended to give away to others. I’ve never been one to enjoy working in the sun; being eaten up by insects, with sweat dripping in my eyes, and dirt gathering under my finger nails. None of that seems to bother her. She gets a lot of joy out of having a garden full of vegetables, bordered by sunflowers on one side, and zinnias on the other; “to give the birds something else to eat,” she insists.

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Gardening takes a lot of hard work and is time-consuming. That’s why I’m sometimes humorously surprised at how impatient she can get at times. When some vegetables start to slow their growth, she’s ready to pull them out of the garden and plant something else. If others are off to a slow start, she re-tills the area and plants something else. But this summer, she learned a lesson about being patient. It was an accidental lesson, but maybe it’ll spill over into how she handles things in the future.

Two weeks ago, when her eggplant bush didn’t have any new blooms, and only one piece of fruit hanging, she was ready to yank it out of the ground. Time, and other commitments kept her from doing it. And then came the rains. Not just some rain, but days of rain. A week later, there were multiple blooms on that bush. Then a week after that — egg plants. Not just one or two, but a half dozen of the fruit had appeared. When I took note of it, I asked, “wasn’t this the bush you were going to pull up a couple of weeks ago?”

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You see, even though it was still early in the growing season, the fact that because she didn’t see continued evidence of fruit, she was ready to pull it out and throw it away. But all it took was a few days of a good soaking rain to yield the kind of results she was looking for. Not only did she have the visible fruit, but there were more blooms waiting to become future eggplants as well.

Patience, albeit, not planned by her, but as a result of being forced to wait for the rain to end, was worth the wait.

How often are we so ready to throw in the towel on something, because we get tired of waiting for it to happen? When instead, a little patience is all we need. And at times, we get way more than we were waiting for in the first place.

That happened to me recently. I’d been meaning to get some new profile shots for work, and for my various online platforms. But I never found a good photographer who also had the kind of pricing that I was interested in paying, and who was available at the same time I was. At one time, I thought I had found someone, but he wasn’t flexible in any way — not on price or poses or number of photos that would be mine. And because he never added me to his emailing list, I never found out when he would run a special until oftentimes just days before it ended. I’m not a vain person, but I also want to make sure that if I’m going to spend money for a photo shoot, that I have my hair done, and the right clothes for the image I want portrayed.

Once, he finally ran a special I could get behind. His special was for a specific price for two people. It was a “Friends” promo. Since I didn’t know anyone who wanted a photo shoot done during the same time period, I tried to get him to agree to take just me — even offering to pay the same price that his promo was advertising. But he insisted on it being the two people for that one price. I’m assuming it was because he wanted that second person through the doors of his studio. But what he got instead was not getting the first person — ME — to his studio at all. I marked him off the list, and told the friend who referred him to me, that her guy would never grow his business into anything significant with the way he did business.  

Just weeks after I’d missed another one of his “specials,” an email popped in my inbox. A women’s organization I was a member of was offering profile pictures for their membership. I did a double-take looking at the pricing. A photographer who was also a member of our organization, had agreed to do the photo shoots for an incredibly discounted price. I kept waiting for the catch — like not being able to have full use of the photos, or something else. But that wasn’t the case. If I was willing to wait another six weeks for it, I’d have the opportunity to get what I was looking for — multiple poses, multiple choices, and full use of the chosen shots! 

My patience had paid off in more ways than one. I had plenty of notice. I was able to make the proper arrangements to take advantage of it. I was going to get a number of shots to choose from…AND I was only paying about 1/6th the price of the other guy’s going rate; and less than a third of the amount he ran for his specials!

Patience was Worth the Wait!

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Me, hanging out and having some fun shortly after the shoot!

Eating from the Garden – Part 1

I’ll admit, I’m not the outdoorsy type of person. Growing up, I used to love going outside, riding my bike, playing jacks with friends, rolling down the backyard hill in cardboard boxes, and getting in on a neighborhood game of Mother May I?, and Red Light, Green Light. But that was all before my teenage years when my mom decided she wanted a large garden in our backyard. She planned it, and she and my dad did the plantings, but after that, it was me and my five siblings who were responsible for weeding, feeding, watering, and picking the garden. Back then, most of what came out of the garden were things my parents ate — greens, squash, green peppers, onions; although I did enjoy the tomato sandwiches and occasional cucumber pickles mom would make. It wasn’t until my post-college years that I came to appreciate the nutritional benefits of eating more vegetables; especially fresh. But even with that, the thought of tilling, fertilizing, planting, weeding, and keeping up with the watering of a large garden like at my parents’ house, just didn’t and still doesn’t appeal to me.

But that’s not the case for a friend of mine who, while acknowledging the hard work it takes, loves to garden, and wouldn’t miss the opportunity to “put one out,” as she refers to it, two to three times a year. I’m grateful that she doesn’t mind sharing, not just because of the subsistence that the vegetables supply for me, but knowing that I’m eating something within hours after picking, rather than days or weeks, makes it all the better. What’s more interesting is that I’m starting to hear from other friends who are putting out their own backyard gardens, in part to be more in charge of what goes into their bodies, and also, to provide their own food source at much less the cost.

I’m all about saving money. And when you can make a one-time purchase of seeds, plants, soil, and fertilizer, and add a little hard work and water (when the skies don’t provide enough), it is worth the time to produce ten times the amount of food that your wallet would have allowed you to purchase at the grocery store, or even the farmer’s market. And it’s yours for the picking, morning, afternoon, evening…even at night.

So what begins like this…

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Becomes like this…

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LUNCH ANYONE?!